Chalk it up to our shrinking attention spans, but short-form video is thriving. It’s not surprising: We like to multi-task, and we like quick hits. So if you want something that will grab a consumer’s attention for a hot minute, video is key.
Brands realize this, and as a result, nine out of 10 marketers who leveraged short-form video in 2022 plan to continue doing it in 2023.
TikTok is probably the best-known platform for brand videos. But there’s another short-form video format taking social media by storm: Social Reels.
Reels are full-screen, vertical videos of up to 90 seconds in length available on both Instagram and Facebook. While there are subtle differences between IG and FB Reels, we’ll focus on Instagram Reels in this post, given they have better engagement rates and have been in use longer than Facebook Reels. But it’s worth noting that best practices for Reels are mostly the same regardless of the channel.
On Instagram, Reels debuted in 2020 and have been a runaway success, eclipsing Stories in 2022 to become Instagram’s fastest-growing feature worldwide. Two billion people now interact with Instagram Reels every month. It’s a good bet that your brand’s next customers are among those two billion.
That said, the ROI on Reels is not automatic. Making Social Reels relevant depends on whether your brand is developing the right creative and making the best strategic decisions.
Five Tips for Keeping Social Reels Relevant for Brands
To realize Reels’ potential to grow an audience, you need to produce content that treats Instagram users like friends (who could eventually become customers). With that in mind, here are five best practices—with some examples—for delivering engaging and relevant social Reels on Instagram and Facebook.
1. Scope Out the Competition
Before you get too deep into creating Reels, spend time looking at your competitors’ Instagram and Facebook Reels, and TikToks.
Your competitors’ target audiences will be similar to yours, so keep an eye on which Reels are resonating with their followers in terms of likes, comments, and shares.
This will give you a baseline for the Reel types that are relevant to your brand. Don’t steal ideas, but use the competition to help spark new perspectives. You can then turn those ideas into Reels that reflect your individual brand personality and values.
2. Be Fun and Informal—Reels Are Not Ads
Instagram users are there for fun. They are not in “buying mode.”
This is why your brand Reels should be loose and entertaining, not salesy. Ultimately, you’re hoping to win customers, but first, make a connection. How, you ask?
- Use humor in your Reels (thanks, Taco Bell!)
- Tap employees or creators as on-camera talent
- Make Reels interactive by adding polls and quizzes
And then there’s music. Music gives a Reel its energy. Use it to your benefit, but be aware of copyright issues—Instagram business accounts don’t have access to Instagram’s full library of popular music.
At least for now, Beyonce or Harry Styles won’t help you go viral. But don’t let that discourage you from still adding fun music to keep your Reels interesting.
One last tip: If your Reel features a person talking, you should include on-screen captions because seven out of 10 users watch videos with the sound off.
Example: This Reel from Later Media is conversational, informal, and educational. It also uses music, voice-over, and on-screen captions effectively.
3. Post Consistently to Keep Your Social Reels Relevant
Posting regularly—four times a week or more—is key to a successful Reels strategy. When your Reels are on a schedule, it alerts the Instagram algorithm (read: social gods) that you have new content. This will give your account more exposure. In addition, your audience will look forward to your Reels when they learn to expect them.
Posting consistently will also give you useful data on what works for your target audience and what doesn’t. For instance, your audience may eat up minute-long instructional Reels, but won’t engage with Reels about your company culture.
Using the insights you glean from your interaction data, you can also determine what time of day your audience engages with your Reels and schedule them accordingly.
4. Make Your Brand Stand Out With Instructional Reels
Reels are amazing at showing people how to do things.
Whether it illustrates the steps of a food recipe or how to use a software platform, brands can use Reels to communicate directly and in a conversational way with users who want to learn.
For instructional Reels, try to keep the teachings visual (show them in action!) with clear steps. Always use on-screen text. Background music and voice-over are also effective as long as they don’t distract from the instructions.
Example: This Home Depot Reel offers up clear instructions, using voice-over and on-screen text, for how to recycle household waste.
5. Pay Attention to How the Instagram Algorithm Works
The social gods of Instagram cannot be ignored. After all, the algorithm dictates how many people view your Reels. If the algorithm likes your Reel’s engagement metrics, it will keep pushing it out to more users, possibly putting it on the Explore page (a sure-fire bet for going viral).
Stay on the Insta god’s good side by following these best practices:
- Create high-quality Reels. Shoot the video in portrait mode (vertical) and make it high-resolution. Use effects, filters, and music for an algorithmic boost.
- Use descriptive hashtags. Make sure they relate directly to your Reel’s primary subject. Hashtags help get your Reel discovered by people other than your followers.
- Use data to give your audience what they want. The algorithm likes it when users engage with content, so dig into Instagram Reels Insights for data on how your Reels performed (views, likes, comments, shares, what time of day you posted).
For consumer and B2B brands, social Reels represent a golden opportunity to engage with new followers and keep existing followers excited about your brand.
But you won’t get by on luck—social Reel relevance hinges on having a thought-out social media strategy and steady stream of creativity. The brands that constantly generate new Reel ideas, post consistently, and analyze what’s working have the best chance of turning followers into paying customers.
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